Now is the time of year when it’s easy to get distracted with Holiday preparations, travel plans, social events and shopping. But for families with chronically ill children, it’s the farthest thing from their minds. Chances are you work with some of those families.
Our client, Mindy Neira, CFP®, Chartered Special Needs Consultant® at Modera Wealth Advisors in Westwood, New Jersey specializes in helping families with chronically ill children. She’ll be featured in the national media next month and here are some excerpts of her upcoming interviews. Please share this post with clients, friends and relatives who may be caring for a chronically ill child.
Many of you may be asking how families who care for an ill child can prepare themselves for the jaw-dropping costs of diagnosing and treating a child’s chronic disease?
According to Neira, it’s important to utilize the many resources available to you locally and virtually, finding support groups and therapy for your client’s family and allowing loved ones to help along the way. “The journey will be difficult. but you can also find times of joy,” observed Neira. “Ask a lot of questions, follow up on resources, and be proactive about caring for your own mental well-being. One of the first steps may be to join a support group for the child’s particular diagnosis,” Neira added.
Neira said she often sees parents (and grandparents) in this situation neglect their own personal health while caring for a chronically ill child and their siblings. “Caring for your own mental health should be a top priority for you as well,” she advises.
Neira said it’s also important to keep one’s financial realities in focus, even when caring responsibilities can seem overwhelming. When families incur significant health care expenses there is an opportunity to deduct a portion for their taxes. “Keep diligent receipts on all out of pocket costs, including travel and stay when traveling to a doctor or for an educational conference,” advised Neira. “There are specific tax considerations for families in your situation, so it’s beneficial to work with a tax advisor or accountant. Tax deductions, credits, and some special provisions on retirement plans could be financially impactful,” she added.
It’s also important for families caring for chronically ill children to know they’re not alone. There are nearly 10 million children enrolled in Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Neira said this program is through your state and can provide health coverage for children, if they are eligible. Find out more about how to apply in your state here.
Also, The Ronald McDonald House Program is a nationwide organization that helps families that need to travel for their child’s medical care with housing, support, and resources for families. The cost of food and housing is covered by the organization. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program provides medical and dental care for many communities as well, Neira added.
Choose the right health insurances
Neira recommends starting with employer benefits. Typically, your client will want a plan that provides the most coverage and lowest out of pocket costs. “This may mean that a high deductible plan is not going to be cost effective for the family. The employer may offer a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), an alternative to a Health Savings Account (HSA) which is only offered with a high deductible plan,” noted Neira. “This account allows you to contribute pre-tax money and can cover an array of out-of-pocket medical expenses, including co-pays and over the counter items at the local drugstore. Ask the health care provider to share a list of eligible expenses, prior to selecting this option. Note that the balance in the account must be spent by year end, or else the remaining value is forfeited.”
If your client’s employer doesn’t provide coverage, or your client is unemployed at present, they should check with their state insurance plans, said Neira. “In many states, there are resources on the website to find local assistance in reviewing the plans. Talking with someone about your options can help you navigate which plan is best for your situation. Your client may be eligible for financial assistance so it’s also beneficial to understand the eligibility within their state.”
In either case, Neira said always check that preferred doctors and prescriptions are covered with any plan you decide on. “Make a list and talk with the provider before signing up. This may take some time, especially when there are so many other competing priorities, but finding the right coverage will be impactful on your financial life.”
Remember you can only help someone else if your own “life vest is on,” said Neira. “Caring for a child with an illness is taxing on your physical and mental health. Take time to appreciate the positive moments when the light peaks through, while also building a community around you early and consistently to guide you through the difficult times.”
Excellent advice. And for clients who aren’t in this situation. Remind them to be thankful for their good fortune.
Reach Mindy directly for more.
What’s your take? I’d like to hear from you.
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